COVID-19 UPDATE

UFUSA Covid19

 CORONAVIRUS

There are a great many questions and concerns UFU members are raising in relation to processes and procedures of the MFS in an environment of the current coronavirus pandemic. 

As these questions arise, we are addressing the issues with your employer, always of course with the focus being the health and well-being of UFU members and our families, together with that of our broader community. 

As you’d expect, some answers are not necessarily immediately clear or straightforward, nor can responses come quick enough for any of us, but it’s heartening to see effective consultation taking place and proactive plans being made and communicated. 

It is acknowledged that we are in extraordinary times and the expert advice is that as well as implementing immediate steps to prevent the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve”, we must all be prepared for an escalation of the situation with draft contingency plans. 

The MFS has stated that the Service’s response to fire, rescue and other emergencies for the community of South Australia should not be compromised, especially when there is so much fear and uncertainty at large. 

STAFFING

What we do know is that large numbers of the population will be exposed to and/or affected by the coronavirus in coming weeks and months, and accordingly we must anticipate a potentially very significant reduction in staffing numbers within the MFS. 

Many members have school-aged children and other family members who may need care through this period and this must be factored in as well. Members employed as Retained Firefighters often have primary employment in, for example, the other emergency services, and this is also likely to have an impact on MFS staffing in the regions throughout the coming period. 

Contingency plans are required to anticipate how a reduction in staff can be managed and operations facilitated while safety is prioritised. As advised in Wordback No 11 of 2020, additional special leave with pay for MFS employees, has been sought by the UFU as previously reported and we await a formal response on this. 

And on Wednesday 18 March 2020, UFU President Chas Thomas and I met with MFS Chief Officer Michael Morgan, Deputy Chief Officer Paul Fletcher and Assistant Chief Officer Roy Thomson, to consider the implications for members and the MFS of the pandemic and to discuss the way forward. 

As you may be aware, ACFO Roy Thompson is heading up the COVID-19 Task Force, commencing with the development of broad policy followed by OLOP plans and procedures. 2 

Chas Thomas has also been involved in discussions this week with management and members around the utilisation of OTR in circumstances where training has been put on hold. 

As a result of this week’s consultations, the Chief Officer has advised the UFU that he believes a workable policy and an operational continuity plan to manage a potential crisis scenario due to a major staff absence has been achieved. 

The Chief Officer acknowledges that some of the proposed actions at various levels would be contentious in normal situations, however he has given his personal assurance that these conditions are purely temporary and will only remain in place with the full consultation with the union for the timeframe of the declared health emergency. 

Reversion to normal operations will occur sooner by agreement, if circumstances permit and consultation with the UFU will be ongoing. 

Some of the proposed actions have been of necessity, already swiftly implemented such as the decentralisation of the Adelaide station with crews being deployed to Camden Park, Prospect, Glen Osmond and Beulah Park stations. 

And it’s common sense for there to be a change of work practice in the Daily Routine to include essential decontamination procedures at stations; to reduce physical contact/interaction between people wherever possible; to increase knowledge and training on communicable disease control; and to have the OLOP ready for an escalated response should it be needed. Procedures for crews co-located with SAAS have been addressed and will be communicated with relevant crews by the MFS. 

Members are being invited by the COVID -19 task force to put forward suggestions about the issues which have arisen or which you anticipate arising, in particular in relation to possible solutions which could be implemented in the belief that many heads are better than one. And if you have trouble getting your ideas through, let us know and we will forward them to the task force. Contingency plans for Regional Operations are currently being developed and will be discussed early next week. 

It is heartening to see communication from the MFS about the contingency plans out to all of you, such as the distribution of emails and the uploading of information to the Members Only Website (MOW). To make access easier, you will find a new tab available as you open the MOW, labelled COVID-19, making it far easier to find so please do keep up-to-date with what is predicted to be a dynamic situation. 

We expect and believe that the commitment given by the Chief Officer in response to our union’s understanding and flexibility in the current circumstances, will be honoured. But if you do have any queries about whether a significant change has been discussed and determined in conjunction with the UFU, please don’t hesitate to call us on 8352 7211 or to email info@ufusa.com.au 

Meantime as is expected of firefighters and all those who work for the MFS, please do take all steps to stay safe. 

BROADSPECTRUM 

UFU Shop Stewards representing members employed as firefighters at Broad-Spectrum have called for individual quarters approved for 2020 to be fast tracked. This move is long overdue and will assist in reducing the risk of exposure with the advent of the coronavirus. 

Management are also being requested to extend additional special leave to members employed at Edinburgh and Woomera where they contract the virus, are required to self-isolate and/or care for family members. 3 

UNION OFFICE 

Meanwhile as previously advised, the UFU as an employer has taken direct steps to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our staff, officials and members and hopefully the general public by practising physical distancing wherever possible together with a range of other measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Access to the Union Office is now restricted, staff have been offered work from home arrangements and members are requested to contact us by calling 83527211 or emailing to info@ufusa.com.au Thank you in anticipation of your understanding and support. 

ENTERPRISE AGREEMENT (EA) UPDATE 

As previously reported, we are attempting to keep on with the EA negotiations despite interruptions to normal business, with the next meeting scheduled for Monday 23 March 2020 at the UFU office. Appropriate precautionary steps in relation to COVID-19 have been put in place to facilitate the meeting. 

In solidarity,

COVID-19 UPDATE

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United Fire Fighters Union Of South Australia - UFUSA

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